Tag Archives: Michelle Grattan

Stop the sheep trade in the northern summer, veterinarians say

The Conversation

Michelle Grattan, University of Canberra

The live sheep trade has received a fresh blow, with the Australian Veterinary Association opposing voyages in the northern summer, between May and October.

The veterinarians’ stand prompted a call from the Western Australian government for the federal government to make a quick decision on the northern summer trade – already underway – “to ensure any pause can be properly managed”.

The government next week receives the report of the inquiry into the summer trade that it ordered after footage of appalling onboard conditions was shown on TV. Federal Agriculture Minister David Littleproud has already flagged tougher penalties for breaches of regulations.

In Israel, a petition against live sheep shipments has been signed by 60 leading rabbis. The Times of Israel reported late last week that the petition says: “We were shocked to discover the harsh facts about the great suffering of calves and sheep, God’s creatures, sent by ships from Australia and Europe to be slaughtered in Israel”.

“The causing of such extreme suffering to animals solely to satisfy our desire for fresh meat is not the way of Torah, and it is not human morality to permit such harsh cruelty to animals.” The petition called for the shipments to end.

The Greens are discussing with the crossbench and Labor a private member’s bill for the phasing out of the trade over two years, which would be put to the Senate.

In a highly-detailed submission to the government review, the AVA says that irrespective of the stocking density on ships “sheep on live export voyages to the Middle East during May to October cannot be recommended.”

The submission of the AVA – the professional organisation representing veterinarians – evaluates the current science relating to the summer trade, looking at the core issues of space allocation and heat stress.

It says that while animal welfare science has advanced since the trade started “the current standards do not reflect these advances.

“Importantly, animal welfare science relates to the physical and mental state of an animal, and recognises that animals are sentient. Changes that are made should be based on ensuring both the physical and mental welfare needs of exported animals throughout the entire journey, and not solely restricted to addressing mortalities”, the submission says.

“In 2018, we know that ensuring good animal welfare means providing animals with all the elements required to ensure their health, physiological fitness and a sense of positive individual wellbeing.”

The submission recommends an increase in the space allocation for each animal of at least 30% for sheep weighing 40-60 kilograms – the weight range of the typical sheep sent to the Middle East. This is a much bigger increase than the industry has canvassed.

Meanwhile Labor, after announcing last week that in government it would phase out the trade, continues to refuse to say how long that would take. Federal agriculture spokesman Joel Fitzgibbon said it would be “wrong for me to put a timeline on it”.

Fitzgibbon said he would still like to secure a bipartisan approach – even though the government last week condemned Labor’s phase out promise as reckless. “We want deep and meaningful reform, but we want reform that is not going to [be] overturned by a future government many years down the track,” Fitzgibbon told Sky.

The WA government’s position is that it doesn’t want sheep exports ended but believes it may not be possible for the northern summer trade to meet welfare standards.

The WA Agriculture Minister, Alannah MacTiernan, said the AVA “backs what our government has been saying for some time – that it may not be possible to keep exporting during the Middle East summer at anywhere near the same levels as we have previously.

“Industry will need time to prepare for a reduction or pause over those summer months – the federal government must announce its plans for the northern summer as soon as possible,” she said.

She said the WA government “will continue working with meat processors and talking to markets and governments in Kuwait and Qatar to ensure the best possible outcome for WA farmers”.

The ConversationLiberal backbencher Sussan Ley on Tuesday will give notice to the parliamentary clerks office of her intention to move a private member’s bill to phase out the trade. It would be introduced at the next private member’s bill time in the House of Representatives, which is on May 21. Ley on Monday was having talks with other MPs interested in the issue.

Michelle Grattan, Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra

This article was originally published on The Conversation. (Reblogged by permission). Read the original article.

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George Brandis warns Liberals against rise of populist right

The Conversation

Michelle Grattan, University of Canberra

Former attorney-general George Brandis has warned of the challenge that right-wing populism poses to the Liberal Party, in his valedictory speech to the Senate ahead of taking up the post of high commissioner in London.

Brandis, a Liberal moderate, also strongly cautioned the Coalition against listening to those who said it should use national security as a political weapon against Labor, and criticised attacks on the judiciary from his own side.

With Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull looking on, Brandis told the Senate that classical liberal values were under “greater challenge than at any time in my memory”.

“Increasingly, in recent years, powerful elements of right-wing politics have abandoned both liberalism’s concern for the rights of the individual and conservatism’s respect for institutions, in favour of a belligerent, intolerant populism which shows no respect for either the rights of individual citizens or the traditional institutions which protect them.”

Brandis was attorney-general throughout the Abbott and Turnbull governments, leaving the ministry in the December reshuffle.

He became increasingly outspoken as a voice of the moderate strand of the Liberal Party toward the end of his time in parliament. Within the government, he was critical of the home affairs minister, Peter Dutton, a hardline conservative.

In his speech Brandis targeted “right-wing postmodernism”. “A set of attitudes which had its origin in the authoritarian mind of the left has been translated right across the political spectrum,” he said.

“This presents a threat both to liberalism and conservatism, and a profound challenge to the Liberal Party as the custodian of these philosophic traditions.”

Brandis – who once set off a political storm by declaring that people had the right to be bigots – said being a liberal wasn’t easy.

“It means respecting the right of people to make choices which we ourselves would not make and of which may disapprove.

“It means respecting the right of people to express their opinions, even though others may find those opinions offensive.

“It means respecting the right of people to practice their religion, even though others may find the tenets of that religion irrational.

“It means, in a nation of many cultures, respecting the right of people to live according to their culture, even though, to others, that culture may seem alien.

“It means respecting the right of everyone to marry the person they love, even though others may find their understanding of marriage confronting.”

Brandis was a prominent figure pushing for same-sex marriage, which was legislated late last year.

In a pointed reference including some (unnamed) ministers who have criticised the judiciary, Brandis said he had not disguised his concerns at attacks on the institutions of the law – the courts and those who practised in them.

“To attack those institutions is to attack the rule of law itself. And it is for the attorney-general always to defend the rule of law – sometimes from political colleagues who fail to understand it, or are impatient of the limitations it may impose upon executive power – because although the attorney-general is a political official, as the first law officer he has a higher duty – a duty to the law itself.

“It is a duty which, as my cabinet colleagues know, on several robust occasions, I have always placed above political advantage.”

Brandis also was blunt in his rejection of those who want to see the government seek to inject more partisanship into national security.

He observed that eight tranches of national security legislation he had overseen were passed with opposition support after parliamentary committee scrutiny.

“It was a fine example of government and parliament working hand-in-hand to protect the national interest.

“I have heard some powerful voices argue that the Coalition should open a political front against the Labor Party on the issue of domestic national security.

“I could not disagree more strongly.

“One of the main reasons why the government has earned the confidence of the public on national security policy is that there has never been a credible suggestion that political motives have intruded.

“Were it to do so, confidence not just in the government’s handling of national security, but in the agencies themselves, would be damaged and their capacity to do their work compromised.

The Conversation“Nothing could be more irresponsible than to hazard the safety of the public by creating a confected dispute for political advantage. To his credit, the prime minister has always resisted such entreaties.”


Michelle Grattan, Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra

This article was originally published on The Conversation. (Reblogged by permission). Read the original article.

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Grattan on Friday: What’s bad for Bill Shorten? Too much election focus on the unions

The Conversation

Michelle Grattan, University of Canberra

Bill Shorten should be praying those pesky crossbenchers give in to Malcolm Turnbull and pass the government’s industrial legislation.

Unless they do – and so far there doesn’t seem much prospect – the bad behaviour of some unions, notably the Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union (CFMEU), will be right in the centre of a double-dissolution campaign.

That can’t be good for Shorten, who has been weak on the issue. While he insists Labor has zero tolerance for instances of union thuggery and corruption, he tends to minimise the problem.

The impression remains that he is too much under the influence of the unions generally and in particular is unwilling to robustly distance himself and his party from the CFMEU, which donates large amounts to the ALP and helped Shorten’s numbers on difficult issues at last year’s ALP national conference.

There is not just a matter of perception, but one of substance. Put bluntly, it is disturbing that the CFMEU would be well placed to influence a Shorten government.

Shorten should have confronted the excessive power unions have in the ALP’s structure. He should have taken on the CFMEU. He should not have as his workplace relations spokesman Brendan O’Connor, brother of CFMEU national secretary Michael O’Connor.

Shorten belatedly put forward the opposition’s own proposals but Labor would be better placed if it had allowed passage of the government’s legislation toughening union governance. This is one of the bills that will be before the recalled Senate.

As for the legislation to restore the Australian Building and Construction Commission (ABCC) – also to be considered in the special sitting – the ALP argues it restricts people’s rights and breaches the principle of equality before the law by separating out one sector for special treatment.

But Shorten is unlikely to win the debate in the public arena, given what came out of the royal commission into trade unions and the large number of CFMEU officials and delegates now before the courts for industrial breaches.

Polling done by Essential published this week found 35% supported reestablishing the ABCC, with 17% opposed, 27% neither supporting nor opposing, and 22% “don’t knows”. In October 2013, 29% supported bringing the ABCC back; 22% opposed.

If the crossbenchers passed the bills in coming weeks, Turnbull would have a victory but there would not be a double dissolution, and industrial relations would not be so sharply profiled when the election campaign came. Labor would have more opportunity to find the government’s weaknesses, and to elevate its own issues, especially health and education.

Even in a double dissolution triggered by the industrial relations legislation, economic management and tax will be core issues. Turnbull, presumably assuming a double dissolution, has merged the tax package into the budget, now on May 3. This gives what otherwise could be an anorexic budget a centrepiece, and helps with the fact that the tax reform is less ambitious than once hoped.

Also, it fits the flagged company tax cut into a broader economic context. A poll done for Sky News underlined what every Coalition backbencher would know – a company tax cut is not something ordinary voters are hanging out for.

Asked to choose from a list of what the government’s highest priority should be, 46% said fixing the budget and returning to surplus, 27% nominated spending more on education, 25% said personal income tax cuts and only 3% opted for company tax cuts.

This is the Coalition’s third budget. The first deeply soured people’s views of the Abbott government and its treasurer, Joe Hockey, and also heavily circumscribed the framing of the following one. As he struggles with this last budget of the term, the pre-election one, Treasurer Scott Morrison is working against the background of a money tree with few leaves and a relationship with Turnbull that has become poor.

His colleagues and his boss will be closely watching how well he does in selling the budget’s tax and other measures. There won’t want to be stuff ups.

Politics is a competitive game, and Morrison has a potential rival sitting further along the frontbench. Former Western Australian treasurer Christian Porter gave up state politics to pack his bags for Canberra in 2013. Porter was on track to be premier; his eyes look beyond his present social services ministry.

As a member of cabinet’s expenditure review committee, Porter is, in the words of one source, “active without overdoing it”, and some Liberals are already speculating he would be a good treasurer for a re-elected Turnbull government.

Morrison is not deputy Liberal leader, a post carrying the right to choose one’s portfolio. His future, if the government is returned, would be totally in the hands of Turnbull, who has already shown a ruthless streak in dealing with ministers – ask Ian Macfarlane, who was dropped.

Morrison earned the treasury job because at the time he was seen as a good performer. Potentially, he has to earn that job all over again.


The ConversationMichelle Grattan, Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra

This article was originally published on The Conversation. (Reblogged by permission). Read the original article.


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Islamic State exploiting Europe’s porous borders and intelligence failures: Turnbull

The Conversation

Michelle Grattan, University of Canberra

Violent Islamist extremism appears to have reached a crisis point in Europe with a “perfect storm” of circumstances, Malcolm Turnbull has said.

These were failed or neglected integration, foreign fighters returning from Iraq and Syria, porous borders, and intelligence and security bodies struggling to keep pace with the scope and breadth of the threat.

This combination had been described as creating a favourable ecosystem for an Islamist milieu, he said.

“For all intents and purposes there are no internal borders in Europe … and their external borders are difficult to manage,” Turnbull told the Lowy Institute on Wednesday night. Recent intelligence indicated that Islamic State “is using the refugee crisis to send its operatives into Europe”.

Turnbull contrasted Australia, which was “better placed” than many European countries to deal with the threat “because of the strength of our intelligence and security agencies, our secure borders and our successful multicultural society, one that manages to be both secure and free”.

Australia’s national security laws were regarded by its allies as among the world’s best, he said.

“The advantage of our island geography, our effective border protection systems and counter-terrorism agencies mean we have confidence that we know who is arriving.

“Strong borders, vigilant security agencies governed by the rule of law, and a steadfast commitment to the shared values of freedom and mutual respect – these are the ingredients of multicultural success, which is what we have achieved in Australia.”

Earlier, Turnbull said that while it was impossible to guarantee absolutely against a terrorist incident here, “I can assure Australians that our security system, our border protection, our domestic security arrangements, are much stronger than they are in Europe where regrettably they allowed security to slip”.

He told the Lowy Institute Australia was united with Belgium in the battle against terror. “Just as our forebears were 100 years ago on the fields of Flanders in the first world war, we are in the same struggle and we stand with you shoulder to shoulder.”

The scourge of terrorism was a global one, he said. In this fight, Australia was fully committed to playing a leading role in finding political and military solutions in the Middle East, working with our regional counterparts, particularly Indonesia and other ASEAN partners, and continuing to remain vigilant at home.

The terrorist attacks in Europe underscored “the importance of our military contribution against ISIL in Syria and Iraq, in which we have been the second largest contributor to the coalition effort.

“ISIL’s ability to inspire let alone direct terrorism around the world will be largely eliminated if its so-called caliphate is decisively defeated in the field. Its defeat requires military force and a political settlement. We are working with our allies to deliver both.”

Turnbull said that we must “take care not to view our strategic circumstances solely through the prism of counter terrorism.

“Terrorism is an example of the propaganda of the deed – it is designed to frighten and intimidate. It is designed to deter us from our normal way of life.

“That is why [Indonesian] President Joko Widodo was determined to ensure that Jakarta was back to normal within four hours of the terrorist bombing in that city in February, and why Belgium Prime Minister Charles Michel is determined to return Brussels back to business as soon as possible.”

The ConversationMichelle Grattan, Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra

This article was originally published on The Conversation. (Reblogged by permission). Read the original article.


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Big win for small business in government embrace of competition ‘effects test’

The Conversation

Michelle Grattan, University of Canberra

In a major victory for small business and the Nationals over big business, the government has agreed to write an “effects test” into competition policy.

It will make it easier to stop large businesses exploiting their market power to the disadvantage of small businesses and farmers.

The new test, which will be an amendment to section 46 of the Competition and Consumer Act, would change the law so it only had to be shown that the effect, rather than the purpose, of a corporation’s decision would be to substantially lessen competition.

Importantly, under the changes, a company will no longer be able to rely on the defence that their actions to exclude competitors were actions that their smaller competitors could take as well.

Announcing the change, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said: “What this will do is ensure that our competition law works better to enable competition, to enable smaller businesses, emerging businesses, to be better able to compete.

“We know that while larger firms are often very innovative and very often very competitive, they are more innovative if the hot breath of competition is coming down their neck.”

But the Business Council of Australia slammed the decision. BCA President Catherine Livingstone said if Australia “wants to have an innovation-driven economy, this is poor policy”.

Government sources said Treasurer Scott Morrison had been in favour of bringing in the effects test – in contrast to his predecessor Joe Hockey.

The Abbott cabinet was deeply divided on it, when it was recommended to it by then small business minister Bruce Billson, and it was put on hold.

Turnbull on Wednesday strongly denied he had opposed it then, saying he had “always taken a thoroughly open mind to this issue”. At the time he was reported as being against it.

Revisiting the effects test was one of the conditions the Nationals inserted into the Coalition agreement concluded with Malcolm Turnbull.

The Nationals have for years been deeply concerned at Coles and Woolworths in particular exploiting their market power over suppliers.

The decision is in line with the Harper Review into competition policy, which found the current misuse of market power provision was not reliably enforceable and permitted anti-competitive conduct.

Turnbull said the government was “backing small business”. The change was not about protecting one firm over another, he said, but about “protecting consumers overall … protecting the whole competitive process”.

“This is a vital economic reform. This is yet again a case of my government taking long overdue reforms out of the too-hard basket.” He said this reform, like media reform on which the government was also moving, “has been in the long grass for many years”.

Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce said the decision would be welcomed by thousands of farmers and small and medium enterprises.

“The Coalition Government has listened to the overwhelming view of agricultural and small business stakeholders,“ he said.

“For the first time in Australia, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) will have meaningful provisions to protect businesses that have been subject to misuse of market power,” Joyce said.

The chairman of the ACCC Rod Sims said the change would be “good for competition, good for the economy, and good for consumers”.

In a statement, the opposition said a deeply divided cabinet had come to a decision that would “chill innovation and investment. The only beneficiaries of this decision will be lawyers”.

“Malcolm Turnbull has totally capitulated on the effects test after earlier arguing against it.”

Labor said among the questions for the Treasurer were how much food prices would increase, what impact would the decision have on forward investment, and how many jobs would be affected.

The Greens welcomed the decision. The Council of Small Business of Australia (COBOA) congratulated the government on its decision.

“In particular, COSBOA is aware that the Business Council of Australia and big businesses such as Westfarmers have been placing undue pressure, indeed threatening, the Government on this issue. However, the Government has stood firm.”

The changes are not expected to come in before the election.


The ConversationMichelle Grattan, Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra

This article was originally published on The Conversation. (Reblogged by permission). Read the original article.


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Former Army chief David Morrison is the 2016 Australian of the Year

The Conversation

Michelle Grattan, University of Canberra

High-profile former Army chief David Morrison is Australian of the Year, with the award given for his commitment to “gender equality, diversity and inclusion”.

In a stand seen as critical in the battle to change the culture in the defence forces, Lieutenant-General Morrison, reacting to a sex scandal, delivered a blunt message in 2013 to misbehaving troops unable to accept women as equals: they should “get out”. “Those who think that it is OK to behave in a way that demeans or exploits their colleagues have no place in this army,” he said.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull announced the Australian of the Year awards on Monday night in Canberra. Morrison follows Rosie Batty, who campaigned against domestic violence throughout last year and is credited with a major role in putting the issue squarely on the national agenda.

Morrison struck a controversial note in his speech to Monday’s function when he said that among the areas he will concentrate on in the next year would be the republican cause. He said it was time “to at least revisit the question so that we can stand both free and fully independent amongst the community of nations”.

Opposition Leader Bill Shorten will use Australia Day to talk up the need for a debate about the republic but Turnbull believes the issue should wait until after the Queen’s reign ends.

Morrison retired in 2015 after 36 years in the army, and four years as its chief. He now chairs Diversity Council Australia.

Since Morrison elevated the issues of equality and inclusiveness, the number of women joining the army has grown and there has been greater acceptance of diversity.

As it happened, two other Australian of the Year finalists worked with Morrison in his efforts to instil more tolerance in the military.

Queensland Australian of the Year Catherine McGregor, formerly Malcolm McGregor, whose transition from a man to a woman brought to national prominence issues faced by transgender people in the armed forces and more generally, was Morrison’s speechwriter and drafted the “get out” address.

NSW winner Elizabeth Broderick, the former Sex Discrimination Commissioner, led a major review into the treatment of women in the Australian Defence Force.

Senior Australian of the Year is professor Gordian Fulde, 67, who has been director of emergency at St Vincent’s Hospital in Sydney for 32 years. He is the longest-serving emergency department director in the country and has been a strong voice against the scourges of “ice” and alcohol-fuelled violence.

The Young Australian of the Year award has gone jointly to 21-year-old social entrepreneurs Nic Marchesi and Lucas Patchett, from Queensland, who built a free mobile laundry in a van to help homeless people. A world-first idea, it has grown to five vans in Brisbane, Melbourne, Southeast Victoria, Sydney and the Gold Coast. Run by more than 270 volunteers, the vans serve more than 36 locations and wash more than 350 loads weekly.

Australia’s Local Hero is Catherine Keenan, from NSW, co-founder and executive director of the Sydney Story Factory. Her award is for nurturing the talents of marginalised young people, especially indigenous youth and those from non-English speaking backgrounds, helping them to express themselves though writing and story telling. She has trained more than 1200 volunteers to work with students, teaching them writing skills and assisting them to find their own voice.

The ConversationMichelle Grattan, Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra

This article was originally published on The Conversation. (Reblogged by permission). Read the original article.


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